WASHINGTON — A small but growing movement by Democrats to use a little-known constitutional amendment to remove President Trump from office has as many practical and political roadblocks before it as efforts by those steadily beating the drum of impeachment.
The president’s recent verbal and Twitter attacks on members of the media — including yesterday’s tweeted video of Trump body-slamming a wrestling figure with CNN’s logo superimposed over its face — are boosting support for a bill that would allow the president to be removed based mental or physical incapacity.
The 25th Amendment allows the vice president along with either the majority of Cabinet members “or of such other body as Congress may by law provide” to call for the president’s removal on the basis of being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
The House bill, introduced in the spring by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and co-sponsored by a number of Democrats including U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Worcester), would create an oversight commission tasked with determining the president’s fitness.
First, as a practical matter, it is extraordinarily difficult to remove a president from office, and that more than anything else weighs heavily in Trump’s favor. In the case of impeachment, it’s nearly impossible — only Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton have been impeached by the House, and neither was convicted in the Senate.
No one has tried to remove a president under the 25th Amendment, in part because it was only added in 1967. But that provision would also require a two-thirds vote by Congress as well as the blessing of the vice president. In Trump’s case, even if Democrats win a slim Senate majority in 2018, they would not have nearly the 67-senator support either impeachment or removal for mental of physical incapacity would require. Chances that Vice President Mike Pence would join the effort are equally remote.
But more importantly, the attempt by Democrats to have Trump declared too mentally infirm to serve would be as politically damaging as an impeachment bid.
Trump’s actions as president are entirely consistent with his actions as a candidate, and he was still duly elected. Absent a clear finding that Trump committed some crime warranting impeachment, efforts by Democrats to remove him will be, at best, denounced by Trump and his supporters as a hysterical, sour-grapes effort by Democrats bitter after Hillary Clinton’s loss. At worst, it would create more chaos than Russian election meddling efforts, fueling claims of a rigged system and potential inflicting long-term damage on voters’ confidence in a fair election system.
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